Love: One of the Twelve Elements on the Medicine Wheel.
Growth, Trust and Love.Southern Elements of the Medicine Wheel.
When I first started studying the Medicine Wheel close to 30 years ago, I was surprised to find “love” as one of the twelve elements.
It seemed so much unlike
- · Clarity, knowledge, and illumination (east).
- · Growth and trust (south).
- · Experience, introspection and strength (west).
- · Renewal, purification and wisdom (north).
Where most people refer to love as an emotion, something that we should feel for our family members and closest friends; the Medicine Wheel speaks of it as a kaleidoscope of sensations: Something we feel by being an integrated part of a whole. As Westerners we believe that all emotions stem from our individual thoughts and perspectives. We see the World around us as if we are looking through a telescope: Our eye on a dot in the horizon. The Sacred Circle tradition in comparison shows us how to see a whole tapestry by surrendering to the experience of being one of its countless threads.
At 16 years old, my father gifted me six tickets to a Kenny Rogers country music concert. I hand picked a few friends and we travelled to Montreal on our own. I remember exactly how I felt: Independent, excited and powerful! All evening I kept telling myself “to remember” this moment / this dream because soon I would wake up from it. The next morning I wrote in my journal: “It was amazing how the crowd’s excitement enhanced my appetite for Kenny Rogers. I couldn’t wait to buy every single one of his records. The pleasure was hard to contain and for at least a few hours it felt like I was madly in love especially when he looked straight at me. This morning I’m strangely enough back to myself with a case of the butterflies every time I let my thoughts journey back to the memory.”
In College and University I learnt through philosophy, religion, and literature (French and English) that as Westerners we are programmed by ancient cultures and their notion of love. For example, born Roman Catholic and educated at the convent for twelve years of my life, I understood love as something so much bigger than me: The size of God. When I started questioning love and exploring it I quickly became disappointed because so much of it was unoriginal and based on perspectives, which were no longer practical or valid in modern times. “Loving the mind, the heart, and the soul” for example, which at the time was the motto for the emerging New Age was actually a Greek philosophy tactfully repackaged. With the exile of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 2001, Buddhism gently appeared in North America and gently impacted our society by delivering the message that love was compassion and enlightenment. It seemed we understood love according to what others felt or figured out…
It wasn’t surprising then, that in my own life as a newly married woman with two toddler children, love seemed removed from my experience. I don’t remember ever candidly talking about love with my friends and family. It was just assumed that love existed and that it was the reason why we gathered together as loved ones. In school it was all about social, cultural and religious programming but in my life it seemed to be basic, necessary and in so many ways lacking.
Only once I started journeying with the Medicine Wheel did I begin to pin point exactly when I felt “love,” and it wasn’t very complicated. For as long as I can remember I always knew that “I should love others as I love myself;” yet, in time I also learnt that “it’s through the experience of loving others that I grew into loving myself.” Love is a perfect circle and it’s the reason why it exists on the Medicine Wheel.
One day, I sat down in our backyard and watched the Red Wing Blackbirds build their nests and I felt curiosity, attraction, fascination, desire, pleasure and respect: All different threads within the love tapestry.
I walked into the house happy!
My husband who was watching me, asked: “What were you doing?”
I replied: “Learning to love.”
Love is also an important part of mythology. All ancient people told stories about love: About how it can be the greatest of virtues, a most appealing ideal, as well as a gateway into the worst of whom we are. If we overindulge in love we can be incredibly destructive. Too many people tip the scale from love to jealousy, paranoia, mistrust, competition and revenge. Too much dysfunctional love can make people kill. Even historical stories show us that in many cases it is the “love of God” that led the bloodiest conquests. Love in the hands of humans seems almost dangerous.
The Medicine Wheel teachings show us that we are inspired to love. With the help of the Fire Keeper Wind in the NE, Life’s first breath, we learn to understand that need, desire, lust, expectation --- FIRE --- inspires us to love. It’s a biological drive, which brings us to develop attachments and a survival instinct. Love gives life meaning and purpose. In scientific experiments it was proven that love had an impact on our physiology. Love can heal and love can make miracles.
Erich Fromm in his book The Art of Loving says that “Love is not merely a feeling but it is also actions”.
The Wheel shows us that every element although stationary in each direction moves through the Wheel and around it. Clarity is not merely in the east at the start of every project or every vision, it is also in the West when it is time to let go or die, and in the North as we look back and renew. The same applies with love. It exists in each direction but makes its home in the south where we sit as we build our wheel / our personal story and look up towards wisdom. Each element demands commitment: Actions.
Just recently I asked a young 15 year-old girl: “What is it that you like about that boy you are seeing?”
She replied: “I like the way he makes me feel. The way he is with me. The way he talks to me. The way he looks at me.”
Love is a moment of presence when someone or something stops to notice us. Suddenly we are understood and recognized. Love is a conscious commitment to others and the World around us. It permeates all that we are from thoughts, to feelings, to behaviors, to attitudes and most of all to actions. It is unconditional. We can’t control it. Love appears unexpectedly and reveals the deepest secrets. Love along with every other element on the Wheel is divine and exposes mystery.